As president of Pacific Union College, I receive a wide diversity of responses when I ask our faculty, staff and students what brought them to Pacific Union College, as well as what makes them stay in this very special environment.
For some, it is the opportunity to experience a high-quality liberal arts education in a small-college setting, while for others it is tied to their personal commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with its emphasis on health and wellness.
However, there is one response that I hear from almost everyone, every single day that I am on campus: “It’s just so beautiful up here.” In fact, PUC was just recognized in the Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 issues of Newsweek as “the most beautiful college campus in America.”
We at the college consider ourselves lucky to have called Angwin and the hills of Napa County our home for learning since 1909. We enjoy the green hills, bountiful nature, bright blue sky, and soft breezes rustling through the tall trees.
Our pristine and inspiring natural surroundings play a major role in the attraction of quality faculty and students to our college, and we are 100 percent committed to working with our neighbors to preserve the rural character of our area and the lands surrounding the college, as can be attested to by my many meetings with the Save Rural Angwin group during the past three years, as well as PUC’s consistently positive stewardship of our property over the past 100 years.
Over the past few years, Pacific Union College has seen tremendous academic growth and progress, as evidenced by the fact that US News & World Report has ranked us in the top tier of our category in the “Best Colleges” issue for 17 consecutive years. I feel privileged to be part of such a distinctive learning community — Napa Valley’s only four-year college — that is preparing our students to, indeed, change the world.
But along with our upward trajectory, Pacific Union College must make important decisions to address the needs of future generations of students.
To do this, the college has considered many options, including the potential sale of some excess property to support growing our endowment, thus providing for student scholarships and long-overdue maintenance to some of our academic facilities.
As with most major decisions in Napa County, we were expecting a robust community discussion and debate surrounding the pros and cons of the various options under discussion. What we did not expect, however, was an aggressive paid signature drive that eventually qualified a divisive countywide initiative, Measure U, for the November 2012 ballot.
Measure U is an unfortunate attempt by a few community members to ask the voters of Napa County to circumvent the normal public process in Angwin. This measure is not about the future of Napa County; rather, it is a specifically targeted attempt to take away Pacific Union College’s rights as a private property owner.
After all, while there is no large-scale development planned for Angwin, any proposed development would be subject to extensive public vetting by the community and would require Pacific Union College to seek and obtain discretionary permits from the county and other government agencies.
For more than 100 years, the students, staff and alumni of PUC have had a deep connection to the land and to the community, and we know our future is strongly tied to Napa County’s. So it concerns us that because Measure U is poorly crafted, it could have unintended consequences for Napa County beyond Angwin — including exorbitant costs and possible conflicts with existing voter-approved measures.
Especially in these difficult economic times, Napa County cannot afford to waste valuable taxpayer dollars on legal fees and administrative costs. But passage of Measure U would force Napa County to do just that.
Most importantly, an independent legal analysis commissioned by the county determined that Measure U is legally flawed and could cost the county as much as $1.3 million, plus fees, if passed.
In these difficult economic times for local government, these taxpayer dollars would be better spent on fixing roads, ensuring public safety and other vital public services — not wasted on legal fees to fight an unfair and unnecessary initiative.
Measure U is unnecessary. It does not serve our local community and it will only cost Napa County taxpayers. Measure U is opposed by the Napa Chamber of Commerce, Supervisor Bill Dodd, and leaders from across the county.
As fellow residents of Napa County committed to the long-term health of our area, we ask you to vote “no” on Measure U and join us in working together in a positive, not divisive, manner to ensure that the rural character of Angwin and Napa County are preserved for generations to come.
Heather J. Knight is the president of Pacific Union College.